Loss of appetite

Loss of appetite

Loss of appetite is when you don’t feel hungry, or don’t feel like eating. This can be caused by cancer, cancer treatments or other health problems. The medical term for loss of appetite is anorexia.

It is important to eat and drink enough when you have cancer. If you are having trouble eating, talk to your doctor, nurse or dietitian.

Be prepared

Know what to expect

There are several reasons why cancer and cancer treatments can cause a loss of appetite. These include:

  • nausea
  • pain
  • depression or anxiety
  • mouth problems
  • changes to smell and taste
  • some medications
  • constipation
  • fatigue.

Ask your doctor if you are likely to lose your appetite, and how this can be managed.

Start a symptom diary

Keeping track of your symptoms can help you and your cancer care team to manage them better.

Talk to your doctor or nurse to see if there is a diary they recommend, or use the example provided on this page.

Know who to contact if you have a problem

Ask your doctor or nurse:

  • when you should call for help or advice
  • who you should contact
  • how to contact them (including at night or weekends).

Keep this information where you can easily find it.

Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Managing symptoms

Managing loss of appetite

If you start to lose your appetite, talk to your doctor or nurse about this.

The best way to control loss of appetite is to treat the causes, e.g. nausea or pain.  If you know what is causing your loss of appetite, or making it worse, ask what can be done to treat this.

You may need to change your diet to stop you losing weight. You can ask to see a dietitian for advice.

Severe loss of appetite

Losing your appetite can sometimes lead to serious problems including:

  • malnourishment
  • weight loss
  • muscle wasting
  • loss of strength
  • tiredness
  • increased risk of infection and slow healing.

If you are worried about your appetite, don’t feel like eating, or are losing weight, contact your cancer care team for advice.

Treatment changes

Occasionally, if you have severe symptoms, your doctor may discuss delaying or changing your treatment. See our Treatment changes page for more information.

Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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